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Biography of Maryam Babangida

Maryam Babangida was a former Nigeria first lady married to General Ibrahim Babangida, she was born in 1948 in Asaba (present-day Delta State),  to Hajiya Asabe Halima Mohammed from the present Niger State, a Hausa, and Leonard Nwanonye Okogwu from Asaba, an Igbo.

She attended her w primary education in Asaba, but later moved to Kaduna where she attended Queen Amina's College Kaduna for her Secondary education.

She graduated as a secretary at the Federal Training Centre, Kaduna. Later she obtained a diploma in secretaryship from La Salle Extension University (Chicago, Illinois) and a Certificate in Computer Science from the NCR Institute in Lagos.

On 6 September 1969, shortly before her 21st birthday, she married Major Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. They had four children, boys Mohammed and Aminu, and two girls, Aisha and Halima.

After her husband became Chief of Army Staff in 1983, Maryam Babangida became President of the Nigerian Army Officers Wives Association (NAOWA). She was active in this role, launching schools, clinics, women's training centres and child day care centers.

When her husband became head of state in 1985, Maryam Babangida moved with her children into Dodan Barracks in Lagos. She had to arrange for considerable renovations to make the rooms more suitable for formal receptions. Dodan barracks was one of the key locations seized in the April 1990 coup attempt by Gideon Orkar against Ibrahim Babangida, who was present in the barracks when the attack occurred, but managed to escape via a back route.

As First Lady of Nigeria between 1985 and 1993, she turned the ceremonial post into a champion for women's rural development. She founded the Better Life Programme for Rural Women in 1987 which launched many co-operatives, cottage industries, farms and gardens, shops and markets, women’s centres and social welfare programs. 

The Maryam Babangida National Centre for Women's Development was established in 1993 for research, training, and to mobilize women towards self-emancipation.
She championed women issues vigorously.

She reached out to the first ladies of other African countries to emphasize the effective role they can play in improving the lives of their people.

Her book, Home Front: Nigerian Army Officers and Their Wives, published in 1988, emphasized the value of the work that women perform in the home in support of their husbands, and has been criticized by feminists.

Working with the National Council for Women's Societies (NCWS) she had significant influence, helping gain support for programmes such as the unpopular SFEM (Special Foreign Exchange Market) program to cut subsidies, and to devalue and fix the currency. She also established a glamorous persona. Talking about the opening of the seven-day Better Life Fair in 1990, one journalist said "She was like a Roman empress on a throne, regal and resplendent in a stone-studded flowing outfit that defied description..." Women responded to her as a role model, and her appeal lasted long after her husband fell from power.

She died aged 61 from ovarian cancer on 27 December 2009 in a Los Angeles, California hospital. Her husband was at her side as she died.

The Times of Nigeria reported on her death that she was "considered to be one of the greatest women in Africa today"

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